Jan 18, 2024

Open and Junior Starter Divisions to be offered at 2024 USEA AEC

By Kaleigh Collett - USEA Staff | Press Release
USEA/Meagan DeLisle photo

Leesburg, Va.—January 18— The United States Eventing Association, Inc. (USEA) and its organizing partners at Equestrian Events, Inc. (EEI) and Mary Fike are thrilled to announce the addition of the Starter level to the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds in Lexington, Kentucky, from Aug. 27–Sept. 1, 2024! In its first year as a recognized level, Starter will be offered in two Championship divisions for interested competitors: Open and Junior.

“The USEA is proud to provide another opportunity for a new pool of competitors to experience the thrill of eventing in a safe and supportive manner,” said USEA CEO Rob Burk. “The USEA Board of Governors approved the introduction of the Starter level to recognized competition with the hope of expanding access to the sport. Thanks to the support of our event organizing team with EEI and Mary Fike, the USEA is now able to open the door to a national championship experience for these competitors as well. We can’t wait to see these enthusiastic riders storm around the Kentucky Horse Park this summer!”

After the announcement of the level’s official recognition beginning on Dec. 1, the response from USEA members was overwhelmingly positive, and there was a clear desire to proceed with Championship offerings as soon as possible. The addition of Open and Junior divisions to the 2024 AEC schedule further demonstrates the USEA’s commitment to offering a fun and educational, low-impact entry point to the sport of eventing.

“Adding Starter Level to the AEC brings to the forefront the importance of this opportunity for introductory riders” said Erin Woodall, Executive Director of EEI, “EEI values the partnership we have with USEA and believes this addition moves the event to a new level.”

Fike with Kentucky Classique goes on to say, “These riders are entitled to a national championship of their own, and we are committed to giving them that experience at the Kentucky Horse Park. They represent the grassroots of our sport, and this gives them a platform from which to grow.”

Riders interested in competing in the Starter level at recognized events throughout the year may be of any age, and horses must be at least 4 years of age or older. There are no qualifications necessary for horses and riders to enter the Starter level.

In order to accumulate year-end award points on the USEA leaderboard, to earn qualifications for Area Championships, and to earn qualifications for the AEC, riders must be a member of the USEA and horses must hold at least a Limited Status registration.

To be eligible to compete at the 2024 AEC, all riders must be current USEA members with Junior, Collegiate, Full, or Life status. All horses must have a Limited or Full registration as well. The USEA will extend a 14-day grace period for Starter level riders to join the USEA, renew their membership, or register their horses upon the conclusion of a competition. Points and/or championship qualifications are not retroactive after the 14-day grace period. Only completions recorded during the 14-day grace period or after the membership and horse registration have been completed will count towards qualification.

All qualifying results must be achieved at USEA/USEF recognized events, and all qualifiers must be without cross-country jump penalties, including the completion requirements. The following qualification requirements will be instituted for the Starter divisions at the 2024 AEC:

Open Starter Championship

Open to any horse and rider, not necessarily as a combination, who have qualified under the AEC Starter qualification criteria.

Qualifying Results

  • First or second in any USEA recognized Starter Horse Trials

Further to the above QR, horse and rider must have completed a total of three USEA recognized horse trials during the qualifying period. The placing requirement as noted above is included in the total of three competitions. Once the placing QR has been met, the completions may be at the Starter or any higher level.

Junior Starter Championship

Rider must be 18 or under in accordance with USEF Rules for Eventing EV104.2. Rider may not have completed competitions at Novice or higher levels in the five years preceding the start of the competition.
Horse may have completed any level.

Qualifying Results

  • First or second in any USEA recognized Starter Horse Trials

Further to the above QR, horse and rider must have completed a total of three USEA recognized horse trials during the qualifying period. The placing requirement as noted above is included in the total of three competitions. For the rider, once the placing QR has been met, the completions may be at the Starter level or the Beginner Novice level. For the horse, once the placing QR has been met, the completions may be at any higher level.

Competition Guidelines

Like other USEA recognized levels, dress and tack regulations will both fall into accordance with the USEF Rules for Eventing, Subchapters EV-9 Dress, EV-10 Saddlery, and USEF Annex 1.

For the 2024 season, the following dressage tests will be utilized for the Starter level:

Numbers and letters for cross-country will be designated by the Organizer and printed on the course map. The cross-country distance will range from 1200-1800 meters with a speed of 300-350 mpm. Speed faults will be assessed at 420 mpm or higher. There should be 12-16 efforts on a Starter level cross-country course with a fixed height of .70m (2’3”), a brush height of .85m (2’9”), a top spread of .70m (2’3”), a base spread with height of 1.00m (3’3”), and a base spread without height of 1.15m (3’9”). Drops should be no more than .90m (3’0”). If water or ditches are used, an option should be provided. Combinations are not allowed.

For show jumping, the maximum distance is 600 meters with a speed of 300 mpm. An appropriate course will feature 8-10 jumping efforts at a height of .70m (2’3”) with a spread of .75m (2’6”). Triple bars are not appropriate at the Starter level, and combinations are not allowed.

For more information regarding the Starter level, please refer to the official USEA Starter Level Requirements & Regulations page here.

Starter division offerings are subject to change pending entries. For general questions about the AEC, please contact Kate Lokey. For questions regarding AEC qualifications, contact Sharon Gallagher. To confirm qualifications, visit the AEC Qualified Riders and AEC Qualified Horses lists throughout the year.

About the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC)

The USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC), presented by Nutrena Feeds, is the pinnacle of the sport at the national levels. Held annually, the best junior, adult amateur, and professional competitors gather to vie for national championship titles at every level from Starter to Advanced. This ultimate test of horse and rider draws hundreds of combinations from around the country to compete for fabulous prizes, a piece of the substantial prize money, and the chance to be named the National Champion at their respective levels. In fact, the 2021 AEC garnered over 1,000 entries and now stands as the largest eventing competition in North American history. The 2024 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds will be held Aug. 27—Sept. 1 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Click here to learn more about the USEA American Eventing Championships.

The USEA would like to thank Presenting Sponsor: Nutrena Feeds; Advanced Final Title Sponsor: Adequan; Platinum Level Sponsor: Bates Saddles; Gold Level Sponsors: Capital Square, Horse & Country, Parker Equine Insurance, Smartpak, Standlee; Silver Level Sponsors: Auburn Labs, The Jockey Club, Kerrits; and more!

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Official Corporate Sponsors of the USEA

Official Joint Therapy Treatment of the USEA

Official Feed of the USEA

Official Saddle of the USEA

Official Equine Insurance of the USEA

Official Forage of the USEA

Official Supplement Feeding System of the USEA

Official Competition & Training Apparel of the USEA

Official Horse Boot of the USEA

Official Shockwave of the USEA

Official Horse Wear of the USEA